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Triumph of good public health policy

December 16, 2021 Dennis F. Fetalino 627 views

Dennis FetalinoOh, the lingering of death. What a business. Keep death alive. Hospitals don’t make money otherwise. Drug companies either. If you’re rich and you have the money, you can pay to die. But the poor, they can only afford to stick it out and suffer. – Al Pacino in You Don’t Know Jack

A bright, shining reaffirmation of universal health and a clear, loud, resounding victory for the general public.

How else to describe the breath-taking facility with which the Senate acted affirmatively on the proposed Vape Bill that aims to regulate the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in the country?

An overwhelming Senate majority has approved on second reading Senate Bill 2239, or the Vaporized Nicotine Product bill, with very strict restrictions to ensure no minors gain access to these products while offering adult smokers a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

In a voice vote with only one objection, the chamber passed its own version of the bill already approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives.

SB 2239 aims to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use and consumption of e-cigs and HTPs adopting internationally accepted standards to protect citizens from the hazards of regulated, unregulated, and substandard products.

The measure has strong provisions that ensure minors do not gain access to non-combustible alternatives and that only 18 years old and above are allowed to purchase and use them, the same age restriction imposed on cigarettes.

In endorsing SB 2239, Sen. Ralph Recto, the sponsor of the bill, said: “It is good public policy for people smoking to shift to these types [vaporized nicotine] of products. There will be less death and less expense on the part of society in treating patients. And that is the direction where many countries, more developed economies are moving toward.”

Recto said SB 2239 would serve public health, especially if the vaporized nicotine products are more accessible to adult smokers.

“Why? Because, it is less harmful. Can you imagine how many lives would have been saved if instead of smoking, they shifted to these types of products?” he said.

The House of Representatives had approved last May 25 its version, House Bill 9007 or the proposed Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act which recognizes tobacco harm reduction as a public health strategy.

HB 9007, a consolidation of 23 bills authored by 154 representatives, seeks to establish a clear and effective law and regulation, including product standards to govern vaporized nicotine products which are considered non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes.

It expressly declares as a policy of the State “to consider harm reduction measures as public health strategy by ensuring that non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes are properly regulated”.

SB 2239 and HB 9007 aim to fill the gap in local regulation amid the proliferation of sale and use of HTPs and vaping products among Filipino consumers.

As of 2020, more than 80 countries, including the Philippines, had no specific laws yet regulating vaporized nicotine products.

Advocacy, consumer, and industry groups, which vigorously supported the measure described the Senate move as a victory for public health and marks the beginning of the end of smoking in the country.

The groups, which have launched an active campaign on social media to gather massive support for SB 2239, would provide 17 million Filipino smokers with better alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

They commended the Senate for upholding the rights and welfare of the 17 million Filipino smokers.

Anton Israel, president of Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines said: “We commend the Senate for passing the vape bill on second reading which brings it closer to becoming a law. We laud Senator Ralph Recto, the sponsor of the bill, for acknowledging and defending the rights of Filipino consumers to choose a better form of nicotine consumption.”

“I thank our senators for approving the vaping bill which aims to regulate the use of smoke-free nicotine products and ensure that minors will not have access to them. The implementation of the bill will cut down the black market and enforce compliance by manufacturers and traders of vapor products and HTPs with international standards,” said Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of Quit for Good.

“We at PECIA thank the Senate for listening to the voice of Filipino consumers who have organized #yestoSB2239 campaign on social media. We eagerly await the final approval by the Senate and the bi-cameral conference committee,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association.

Joaqui Gallardo, spokesman of Vaper AKO, said: “We at Vaper Ako laud the Senate for recognizing the rights of more than 1 million Filipino vapers and users of heated tobacco products who have found a better way of consuming nicotine, which is a food-grade substance, by the way. These electronic products provide a better way of delivering nicotine, without combustion or the one that produces the harmful elements in tar. With these innovative products, the risks are much lower for nicotine consumers.”

In 2018, Public Health England established that vaping is 95-percent less harmful than tobacco and that it would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cig are being put off due to false fears about safety.

The Department of Health estimates that there are one million Filipino users of e-cigs and HTPs who have already quit smoking.

Cardiologist Rafael Castillo, a fellow of the Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine College of Cardiology and European Society of Cardiology, noted that the current decline in smoking rate in the country was not fast enough.

“We know there’s no quick fix to it, but a pragmatic and aggressive approach to the problem that shows some promise in mitigating the outcomes should be tried. The use of alternative tobacco products and HTPs may be one such approach,” Castillo said.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause, ponder, act, and pray, people.